International human rights organization Amnesty International has called on the member states to use the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to hold the authorities accountable due to the terrible human rights violations and the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in the run-up to the upcoming parliamentary elections.
This call was made in a statement published on its own website on Saturday.
The organization’s deputy regional director for South Asia, Livia Saccardi, said Bangladesh’s fourth UPR is coming at a time when human rights and important critical institutions, opposition leaders, neutral media houses and civil society are facing systematic attacks. This assessment is an important opportunity to scrutinize Bangladesh’s human rights record and scrutinize authorities for violations of international human rights obligations and commitments.
The statement also said that once every four years, the UPR of the United Nations Human Rights Council provides an opportunity to review the human rights records of all the member states of the United Nations. Amnesty has submitted an assessment to the UPR on the implementation of the recommendations that were previously presented to Bangladesh in the UPR. It highlights concerns about freedom of expression, assembly and peaceful assembly, other human rights – such as enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, minority rights, capital punishment and refugee rights.
On freedom of expression, Amnesty said Bangladesh’s last UPR was reviewed in May 2018. There the government accepted the recommendation to protect freedom of expression. But rights have been undermined in the last five years. This includes recklessly reforming laws and using different laws as tools. The new Cyber Security Act 2023 retains many aspects of the controversial former Digital Security Act.
Amnesty also said the Bangladesh government must bring the Cyber Security Act 2023 into line with international human rights law and ensure that the law is not used to target human rights activists, activists, critics, and peaceful dissenters.
Those detained for peaceful exercise of human rights, such as freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, should be released immediately and unconditionally in view of the upcoming national elections to be held in January.
It said that in relation to enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, although in the last UPR the government of Bangladesh supported the recommendation to prevent these matters and investigate and bring those involved to justice, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have been alarmingly seen in the last five years. Since then Amnesty International has documented a clear pattern of enforced disappearances following extrajudicial killings by law defenders.